.Facebook has been in the hot seat over site privacy. (QMI Agency files) TORONTO — Joseph Dee is preparing to hit the delete key on his Facebook account. And if they stick to their pledge, thousands of others will be joining him Monday in “defriending” the social networking site.
Dee, a web technologist, is one-half of the Toronto duo behind QuitFacebookDay.com.
Dee and Matthew Milan launched the site May 12 to announce their plans to bid adieu to Facebook, expressing concerns over how the popular site manages the personal data of its more than 400 million users, which include 15 million in Canada.
QuitFacebookDay.com provides an open forum for others to share their views, as well as allowing those who are inclined to submit their pledge to “commit to quit.”
As of early Sunday, more than 24,000 had signed on committing to quit Facebook.
Dee said while privacy is a commonly discussed theme, the issue for both him and Milan regarding Facebook runs deeper.
“It’s more than just the issue of how they’re handling people’s personal information. It’s about the approach that they take to the experience,” Dee said. “It’s one thing to give people the option to set their privacy, but how easy is that to do? And how much are they really concerned about people having ownership over that?”
“I don’t get the feeling that that’s really their intent, so it’s an issue of trust as much as it is an issue of privacy for me.”
Facebook has been in the hot seat over site privacy. Complaints have emerged over default privacy settings that were revealing more information than some users realized.
The Associated Press reported that a security glitch exposed some users’ private conversations, and another revealed the information of users to advertisers in a way that they could be identified — going against Facebook’s terms of service.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced last week amendments to the privacy settings. The changes include a single-click option allowing users to determine with whom they would share their information, as well as allowing users to stop third-party applications from accessing their personal data. Less private information is also now visible on user profiles by default.
The office of Canada’s privacy commissioner, which investigated Facebook’s privacy policies in 2009, says while the latest changes are positive, they may not be enough to conform with Canadian law.
In a statement emailed to The Canadian Press, Facebook said the privacy and security of user information is of “paramount importance to us.”
The statement went on to highlight some of the changes made to address concerns, pointing to the redesign of the privacy settings page, as well as the single privacy control for all content and a way to opt out of the Facebook platform.
“We hope these changes address the concerns that people raised, but we encourage users to continue to send us their feedback,” the statement reads, including a link to Facebook’s privacy feedback page: http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show—formprivacy—settings— feedback.
“We also hope that people who had previously committed to quitting Facebook choose to spend the day going through their new privacy controls instead.”
Dee said he thinks the ability to stop the dissemination of user information to third parties is a good step. But overall, he sees the privacy changes as more reactive and a PR move than anything else.
“I don’t think that at the core Facebook is really concerned about what I feel as a user. I think they’re looking at it more from a business sense, and that’s their right to do that,” he said.
“They’re a corporation and they own their network and they’re setting the rules on their network. My option is whether or not I want to partake in that, and that’s why I’m moving away from it.”
Dee said he’s been “a little bit overwhelmed” by how much attention the site has received. However, he doubts either he or Milan will continue with it once Quit Facebook Day is over.
“I think this was more our own sort of statement and it seems to have turned into a story and a bigger thing, but I don’t think we’re looking to lead a movement or be sort of the spokesmen for people quitting Facebook.”
Wendy Cukier, associate dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, said Facebook should be concerned that it has some dissatisfied users, in addition to the privacy commissioner suggesting there are problems. However, at this stage, she wouldn’t conclude there’s going to be a mass exodus from the site.
“I think what we’re seeing now is what happens with virtually all technologies,” said Cukier, a professor of information technology management and communications and culture.
“After the period of sort of inflated expectations and hype, people start looking more critically at what the costs really are, what the limitations really are, what it really can do, really can’t do, what the unintended consequences are, etc., and start to bring their expectations more in line with the reality.”